President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order on March 16th which empowers the Executive Office to hold unprecedented power. The order authorizes the President to take control over all of America’s natural and energy resources in the event of war or natural disaster.
In the order, the National Defense Resources Preparedness Order, the President granted to himself the authority to approve the dispensing of all domestic energy, production, transportation, food, and water supplies as he deems necessary to protect national security.
Critics are saying that the text of the Order does not jive with what the first paragraph says. A plain text reading of the order allows the President to take control of all of the before mentioned resources basically whenever he wants.
In fact, the President can invoke the powers of this order to “meet national defense requirements” in “the full spectrum of emergencies.” The relevant sections read:
“Section 101. Purpose. This order delegates authorities and addresses national defense resource policies and programs under the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended (the “Act”).
“Sec. 102. Policy. The United States must have an industrial and technological base capable of meeting national defense requirements and capable of contributing to the technological superiority of its national defense equipment in peacetime and in times of national emergency. The domestic industrial and technological base is the foundation for national defense preparedness. The authorities provided in the Act shall be used to strengthen this base and to ensure it is capable of responding to the national defense needs of the United States.
Sec. 103. General Functions. Executive departments and agencies (agencies) responsible for plans and programs relating to national defense (as defined in section 801(j) of this order), or for resources and services needed to support such plans and programs, shall:
(a) identify requirements for the full spectrum of emergencies, including essential military and civilian demand;
(b) assess on an ongoing basis the capability of the domestic industrial and technological base to satisfy requirements in peacetime and times of national emergency, specifically evaluating the availability of the most critical resource and production sources, including subcontractors and suppliers, materials, skilled labor, and professional and technical personnel;
The underlying legal authority for the execution of such a radical order is found in the Defense Production Act of 1950, the President claims. That law combined with the rights vested in him as Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces supposedly empowers the President to endow himself with these expansive powers.
Just how expansive are the claimed powers and what resources are included in their scope? Livestock? Yes. All food “resources” and “resource facilities?” Yes. Veterinary clinics? Yes. All forms of energy? Yes. Will the President control the water supply? Yes.
Sec. 201. Priorities and Allocations Authorities. (a) The authority of the President conferred by section 101 of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2071, to require acceptance and priority performance of contracts or orders (other than contracts of employment) to promote the national defense over performance of any other contracts or orders, and to allocate materials, services, and facilities as deemed necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense, is delegated to the following agency heads:
(1) the Secretary of Agriculture with respect to food resources, food resource facilities, livestock resources, veterinary resources, plant health resources, and the domestic distribution of farm equipment and commercial fertilizer;
(2) the Secretary of Energy with respect to all forms of energy;
(3) the Secretary of Health and Human Services with respect to health resources;
(4) the Secretary of Transportation with respect to all forms of civil transportation;
(5) the Secretary of Defense with respect to water resources; and
(6) the Secretary of Commerce with respect to all other materials, services, and facilities, including construction materials.
(b) The Secretary of each agency delegated authority under subsection (a) of this section (resource departments) shall plan for and issue regulations to prioritize and allocate resources and establish standards and procedures by which the authority shall be used to promote the national defense, under both emergency and non-emergency conditions. Each Secretary shall authorize the heads of other agencies, as appropriate, to place priority ratings on contracts and orders for materials, services, and facilities needed in support of programs approved under section 202 of this order.
(c) Each resource department shall act, as necessary and appropriate, upon requests for special priorities assistance, as defined by section 801(l) of this order, in a time frame consistent with the urgency of the need at hand. In situations where there are competing program requirements for limited resources, the resource department shall consult with the Secretary who made the required determination under section 202 of this order. Such Secretary shall coordinate with and identify for the resource department which program requirements to prioritize on the basis of operational urgency. In situations involving more than one Secretary making such a required determination under section 202 of this order, the Secretaries shall coordinate with and identify for the resource department which program requirements should receive priority on the basis of operational urgency.
(d) If agreement cannot be reached between two such Secretaries, then the issue shall be referred to the President through the Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.
(e) The Secretary of each resource department, when necessary, shall make the finding required under section 101(b) of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2071(b). This finding shall be submitted for the President’s approval through the Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. Upon such approval, the Secretary of the resource department that made the finding may use the authority of section 101(a) of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2071(a), to control the general distribution of any material (including applicable services) in the civilian market.
The last line of the text is especially chilling. It gives the President the right to seize control of all general distribution mediums in the civilian markets.
This is not the first time President’s have issued executive orders limiting constitutional protections. Abraham Lincoln suspended habeus corpus and the right to a trial by jury during the civil war. Theodore Roosevelt issued an executive order very similar to the one Obama just issued.
The White House has issued no statement or justification for these powers. Some say it may be a precursor to war in the Middle East. With Iran racing towards a nuclear weapon. We will have to see.
Do you think the President has the right to issue such orders?